The New Urban Agenda: More Power to Cities? Yes, but how?


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing the Habitat III Conference in Quito, 17-20 Ocotber 2016

Only within the last 16 months, the world has seen the emergence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Paris agreement which has just recently come into force, and the so called New Urban Agenda (NUA). All three of them represent bold and (more or less) legally binding agreements by the Member States of the United Nations. The New Urban Agenda should be the most concrete and practical one since it addresses the smaller scale of government, i.e. cities – the place where we will win or lose our struggle for a more just, equitable and indeed sustainable world.

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November 8, 2016   No Comments

Energy Remunicipalisation: How Hamburg is buying back energy grids, Part I

© dpa Photographer: Axel Heimken

On September 22 2013, 50.9% of the Hamburg citizens voted in a referendum for the full remunicipalisation of the energy distribution grids in the city. The referendum was initiated by the citizen’s initiative ‘Our Hamburg – Our Grid’ (OHOG) and constituted the climax of an intense political controversy that lasted for more than three years. Through this vote Hamburg has received international attention and became a flagship example for remarkable civil engagement. In the international best-seller “This Changes Everything” (2014), Naomi Klein sees the driving motive in the people’s ‘desire for local power’. Indeed it is true that under the constitution of the City of Hamburg, a successful referendum has a binding effect, which left the City government no other option than to announce the implementation of the referendum decision and to start the remunicipalisation process immediately after the vote. Now, three years after the referendum, it is time to evaluate what has been achieved so far. A series of interviews with key actors that were and, for the most part, still are involved in the remunicipalisation process shed some light on the remunicipalisation process and recent developments.

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October 25, 2016   No Comments

Habitat III. The upcoming UN cities summit is as important as the Paris Climate Conference – but will it deliver?


Quito, Ecuador: The Habitat III conference is held here on 17-20 October 2016 (Photo Credits: LonelyPlanet)

It is almost time.  One of the most important international summits is on our doorstep. Next week the UN General Assembly will be gathering in Quito, Ecuador to (hopefully) agree and sign the so called New Urban Agenda, the international urban “constitution” supposed to be guiding sustainable urban development in the next 20 years. Almost 40,000 participants from all around the world have registered. After the successful adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris agreement, expectations on the next UN cities summit are high. The question however is:  will it deliver? Will delegates agree on a meaningful outcome that ultimately provides guidance for national and local governments? Will it keep up to the promise to be the “SDG implementation summit”? In fact, the goals and principles of the SDGs and the Paris agreement will be confronted with a reality check  – since first and foremost much of their substance will have to be implemented by the cities of this world.

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October 13, 2016   No Comments